Gastélum Law

About Us

Denisse Gastélum About Page Photo

Denisse O. Gastélum Bio

Denisse O. Gastélum is the founder and principal trial attorney at Gastélum Law, where her practice focuses primarily on civil rights, sexual assault, wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts throughout the State of California.

Denisse completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Political Science and Education. She then embarked upon her legal studies at Loyola Law School, where she served as a mentor for the Academic Support Program, a debate coach for the Johnnie Cochran Middle School Debate Program, a member of the review team for For People of Color, Inc., and a law clerk for The Cochran Firm. Following law school, she served as a Public Service Corps Fellow for the Honorable Teresa Sánchez-Gordon.

During the early years of her legal career, Denisse worked as a defense attorney, where she specialized in public entity defense. She primarily handled cases on behalf of the County of Los Angeles regarding civil rights claims, including excessive force, freedom of speech, and familial association. This experience provides her with the unique ability to analyze a case from both a defense and plaintiff’s perspective. The experience also provides her with an invaluable skill: the skill of objectivity. This skill has proven to be a reliable tool which has sharpened Denisse’s effectiveness in litigation and in the courtroom.

In 2021, Denisse was recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) with the prestigious Top Lawyers Under 40 Award. After a rigorous review process, the HNBA Awards Committee selected Denisse from a large pool of highly qualified candidates from across the country for her outstanding professional achievements combined with an exceptional commitment to service.

In 2020, Denisse was recognized as being Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers, a recognition that is extended solely to a select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Denisse has also received the Top 100 Civil Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyers recognition by the National Trial Lawyers.

In 2015, Denisse graduated from the Trial Advocacy Project through the Los Angeles County Bar Association. As the lead trial attorney, she prosecuted six misdemeanor/felony criminal trials during a seven-week span; the charges included terrorist threats, domestic violence, prostitution and assault with a deadly weapon. Denisse was single-handedly responsible for all aspects of trial proceedings, including trial strategy and theme, jury selection, opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, and closing argument. In 2017, Denisse completed the three-month long Plaintiffs’ Trial Academy through the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. At the Academy, Denisse was trained by an elite group of trial attorneys. Showing great promise as a trial attorney she received individualized mentoring to ensure that she mastered her craft.

Denisse served as the 2018 President of the Mexican American Bar Association (MABA). Throughout her tenure, Denisse served as the President-Elect, Vice President, Treasurer, and Trustee and served as a Committee Member on the Civil Rights/Immigration Committee, Judicial Endorsement Committee, Political Endorsement Committee, and the Federal Judicial Externship Program. The accomplishments of her tenure include building coalitions with minority/ethnic bar associations to organize townhalls geared towards providing community leaders with tools to protect vulnerable communities under the Trump Administration; securing a partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, wherein volunteers provided free legal services through legal clinics and naturalization/Know Your Rights workshops; facilitating meetings amongst multiple stakeholders from the ACLU of Southern California, the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office to ensure that criminal defendants were fully briefed of the immigration consequences; and introducing the MobileCause fundraiser, which has proven to be a reliable means to raise funds necessary for MABA’s Federal Judicial Externship Program and High School Scholarship Program.

Denisse served as the 2019 President of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association (LLBA). Throughout her tenure with LLBA, she served in the capacity of President-Elect, Secretary, Dinner Chair and Scholarship Chair. She is a founding member of the LLBA Young Lawyers Committee. She has also served as a mentor for Motivating Our Students Through Experience (MOSTe), a non-profit organization geared towards mentoring young girls enrolled in middle schools and high schools located in underserved communities.

Denisse is the current President of the California La Raza Lawyers Association (CLRLA),and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP), the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), and the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). She is actively involved in police reform through her legislative work with the NPAP Bane Act Reform Committee and the CAOC Civil Rights and Police Reform Committee. Over the years, Denisse has been a speaker on various panels regarding the practice of law and career advice.

Denisse was born in East Los Angeles into an immigrant family from Chihuahua and Sinaloa, Mexico. Having come from humble beginnings, her commitment to advocating and protecting civil liberties comes naturally. When not fighting for justice and serving as a zealous advocate on behalf of her clients, Denisse enjoys traveling, volunteering and spending time with her husband, Isidro Pánuco, and their two Australian Shepherds, Ginsberg (“Ginsey”) and Barack (“Barry”).

Publications

  • Denisse O. Gastélum, “Demystifying ESI for Plaintiff’s Lawyers,” Advocate (February 2022)
    Read Article 

  • Denisse O. Gastélum, The Civil Rights Issue, Advocate Associate Editor (February 2021)
    Read Article
  • Denisse O. Gastélum, “Securing the Universe of Documents in Civil-Rights Actions,” Advocate (February 2021)
    Read Article
  • Denisse O. Gastélum, “Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act – Litigation 101,” Advocate (April 2020)
    Read Article
  • Denisse O. Gastélum, “So, You Want to Be A Federal Practitioner?” Advocate (March 2020)
    Read Article
  • Denisse O. Gastélum, “Claims Presentation Requirements Under the Government Claims Act,” Advocate (November 2018)
    Read Article

Speaking Engagements

  • Civil Rights Case Studies: Police Shootings & Jail Suicides, Western Trial Lawyers Association
    Kohala Coast, Hawaii  (2022)

  • Starting Your Own Law Firm, Moderator, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Annual Women in Law Conference
    Los Angeles, California  (2022)

  • National and Local Police Reform, Good and Common   
    San Francisco, California  (2022)

  • Jury Selection Workshop, Moderator, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California  (2022)

  • ESI 101 – Finding Golden Needles in Today’s Electronic Haystacks, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California  (2022)

  • Women In Trial Travel Summit
    Punta Mita, México (2022)

  • Navigating Civil Rights Related TBI Cases, Brain SoCal 
    Los Angeles, California (2022)

  • Practicing Civil Rights Law, National Lawyers Guild
    Los Angeles (2022)

  • Believing in the Power of You: Navigating Life as a Latina, Latina Lawyer Bas Association 
    Los Angeles, California (2021)

  • Litigating Police Abuse Cases from Pleadings through Trial: Nuts, Bolts, and the Secret Sauce, Consumer Attorneys of California Annual Convention
    San Francisco, California (2021)

  • Litigating Civil Rights Cases, California Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Annual Conference
    Las Vegas, Nevada (2021)

  • Civil Rights/Police Brutality Case Analysis Series, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California (2020)

  • Strategies for Advancing & Reforming Civil Rights, Mexican American Bar Association
    Los Angeles, California (2020)

  • Law Enforcement Misconduct: Litigating Police Shootings & Jail Suicides, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California (2020)

  • Obtaining Discovery: Meet and Confer through Motion to Compel, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California (2020)

  • Does Racial Bias Still Exist in the Courtroom? Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Annual Conference
    Las Vegas, Nevada (2019)

  • What Makes America Great? Los Angeles Minority Bar Associations’ Roundtable Discussion
    Los Angeles, California (2017)

  • Racial Injustice in the U.S., Los Angeles Minority Bar Associations’ Town Hall Discussion
    Los Angeles, California (2016)

  • Supreme Court Review, Mexican American Bar Association
    Los Angeles, California (2016)

  • México Criminal Trial Reform Conference, Mexican American Bar Association Capítulo México
    Jalisco, México (2014)

Professional Activities

  • California La Raza Lawyers Association
    President (2022 – Present)
    Vice President of the Central District (2019 – Present)

  • National Police Accountability Project
    Board Member (2022 – Present)
    Bylaws Committee Co-Chair (2021 – Present)
    Bane Act Reform Committee Member (2020 – Present)

  • Los Angeles County Bar Association 
    Board Member (2022 – Present)

  • Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles
    Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Chair (2021 – Present)
    Board Member (2018 – Present)

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Board of Directors
    Board Member (2020 – Present)

  • Consumer Attorneys of California
    Civil Rights/Police Reform Committee Member (2020 – Present)
    Board Member (2019 – Present)

  • Biden/Harris Campaign National Voter Assistance Hotline
    Captain (2020)

  • Latina Lawyers Bar Association
    President (2019)
    Executive Officer (2016 – 2019)
    Board Member (2015 – 2019)
    Young Lawyers Committee Founding Member (2011 – 2016)

  • Mexican American Bar Association
    President (2018)
    Executive Officer (2015 – 2018)
    Board Member (2014 – 2018)
    Civil Rights Committee Member (2020 – Present)

Awards

  • Super Lawyers
    Los Angeles, California (2023)

  • Presidential Award
    Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (2021)
  • Volunteer Spotlight
    Consumer Attorneys of California, Forum Magazine (2021)
  • Top Lawyers Under 40
    Hispanic National Bar Association, Washington, D.C. (2021)
  • Top 40 Under 40
    National Trial Lawyers, Dothan, Alabama (2020)
  • Top 100 Plaintiff Lawyers
    National Trial Lawyers, Dothan, Alabama (2020)
  • Presidential Award 
    Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (2018)
  • Distinguished Alumna Speaker
    Mexican American Bar Foundation, Los Angeles, California (2018)
  • Hispanic Heritage Honoree
    Los Angeles County Bar Association, Los Angeles, California (2018)

Education

  • Juris Doctor
    LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL, Los Angeles, CA

    Activities:
    Trial Advocacy; Appellate Advocacy; Johnnie Cochran Middle School Debate Program, Debate Coach; Academic Support Program, Mentor; For People of Color, Inc., Review Team Member; Public Service Corps Fellow; The Cochran Firm, Law Clerk

    Honors:
    Mexican American Bar Foundation Scholarship; Latina Lawyers Bar Association Scholarship; Mabel Wilson Richards Scholarship; Cindy M. Lopez Scholarship; American Bar Association Scholarship
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Minors in Political Science and Education
    UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, Los Angeles, CA

    Activities:
    African Education Project, Mentor; GEAR UP, Mentor/Tutor; Bruin Corps, Tutor; Sigma Delta Sigma, President

    Honors:
    Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholarship; William Ortega Scholarship; Governor Stephens
    Scholarship; Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources Scholarship; Dean’s
    List; National Society of Collegiate Scholars

Bar and Court Admissions

  • State Bar of California
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Languages

  • Fluent in Spanish
    Reading, writing, and speaking

Affiliations